The Missouri State Bears held Bradley to 14 points in the first half and went on to beat the Braves 55-37 Saturday afternoon at JQH Arena.
It’s the second straight victory for the Bears (10-11, 4-4), who sweep the season series against Bradley.
It’s the second game since Bears fans were introduced to the new team motto “defend no matter what,” and defend is just what Missouri State did, becoming the first Valley team since Illinois State in the 1985-86 season to hold opponents to 37 points or less in back to back games.
On Wednesday night, MSU held Loyola to 35 points, including a JQH Arena-tying record of 11 in the second half.
Bears Coach Dana Ford says while there were some frustrations, his guys are starting to defend no matter what. “Anytime you hold back to back opponents under 40 points, you’re doing something well, whether that be what we’re doing in terms of keeping the ball longer or being a little bit more active and obviously guarding the three point line better.”
Missouri State led 28-15 at the halftime and Bradley got no closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
Ford’s message to his team at the intermission? “If you just give up 14 points this half, and we don’t score at all, the game’s going to overtime,” Ford said. “If you want to win, then you’ll fall in love with ‘defend no matter what.’ I think enough guys are buying into it, and the beauty of it for us is we’re not playing a lot of guys, so it doesn’t take a lot to buy in.”
Bears guard Jared Dixon is buying in. “Just falling in love with defending no matter what, Dixon said. “It’s been really a key. We’ve just been emphasizing if our offense is not going, just keep guarding. It’s helping us. We’re holding teams to under 40 points.”
Keandre Cook scored 16 points to lead Missouri State and pulled down ten rebounds for a double-double, with Tulio Da Silva adding 12 points.
MSU went 8-19 from the three point line, while the Braves hit only two of ten attempts.
The Bears shot 35% from the field (17-48) and drained 13 of 17 free throw attempts.
Nate Kennell’s 11 points led the Braves, who fall to 10-11, 2-6.
The Bears will hit the road for their next game Tuesday night at Valparaiso.
Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m.
Dixon scored seven points, passing Darryl Reid for the number 21 position on MSU’s all-time scoring list.
The Bears are 119-54 at JQH Arena and 9-2 against Bradley at The Q.
Saturday’s announced attendance at JQH Arena was 5,215, a season high.